Phone-use bail condition for meth importation accused

A strict phone-use condition has been imposed on two men charged with importing methamphetamine with a street value of $50 million from Mexico, as they are released on electronically monitored bail.

The pair will have to disclose to the police the number of every phone they use while they are on bail.

The condition was imposed by Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll this week as he released Michael Harrison Cooper, 31, and Johnathon James Seal, 25.

The pair were arrested as part of the police and customs department’s Operation Drugs investigation which allegedly found 49kg of meth hidden in a shipment of safety lights.

Police and customs allege the drugs were found in 40 separate packages weighting 1kg to 1.2kg each at the end of the two-week operation.

The men have been in custody since their arrest in November but after discussions between the two defence counsel and Crown prosecutor Chris Lange at the Justice Precinct on Monday, the Crown agreed they could be released.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of methamphetamine for supply and importing the class A drug.

Judge O’Driscoll heard from the lawyers about the details of the bail conditions and then adjourned the hearing for an hour to give his decision.

He remanded both men to a Crown case review hearing on March 21, with conditions that they surrender their passports – both have already been handed over – and not apply for any travel documents.

They must also tell the police of the numbers of any phones they use while on bail, and they must not contact or associate with any potential witnesses whose names are notified to them by the police. They will be continually monitored on 24-hour curfews at their bail addresses.

Pip Hall QC appeared as defence counsel for Cooper and Steve Hembrow for Seal.

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